With political climates shifting across most of the United States right now, it might be very difficult to miss things happening elsewhere in the world. A nation that is currently going through some tough changes is Belarus. Situated between Russia and Poland, this eastern European country was always in a tight spot.
But before we get into that, let’s take a look at Belarus’s recent history. After the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Belarus declared independence on August 25, 1991. The first and current president, Alexander Lukashenko, has been in power since the formation of the office in 1994. Since then, he has run for re-election five times, winning each time. Many foreign governments regard these elections as illegitimate, and do not recognize Lukashenko as the president of Belarus. Coined as the “Last Dictator of Europe,” he intends to remain so for the rest of his life, so it seems.
Recently, the people of Belarus have been urging for a change in government. The press is not free, any opposition gets silenced, and Lukashenko doesn’t seem ready to give up his spot. Lukashenko is strongly backed by Russia, with a close friendship to Russian President Vladimir Putin. Some fear of Russian intervention if the current civil unrest gets too heated. In Ukraine, the government and most citizens wish strongly to join the European Union, but with Pro-Russian separatists in the east of Ukraine, and Russian military forces in the Crimea, they know very well what would happen if they were to become friendly with the EU. This could be the same case with Belarus. If an overthrow of the government were to occur, and that government was to begin the integration process into the EU, a Russian military force could come storming in. Not only that, but Russia has leverage over the oil pipelines to Europe.
How does this tie in to the protests you might be wondering? Well, it’s a dichotomy. Do the citizens of Belarus protest, and make radical change in their nation, risking Russian interference? Or do they continue to live under an oppressive regime?
Since the beginning of the protests in May, over 70 people have gone missing. But for the 200,000 people marching in Minsk, this does not seem to worry them. The main goals of the protests are to have Lukashenko resign from office, and to have changes made to the government Lukashenko would leave behind. All of this seems to have stemmed from 26 years of mistreatment. It is hard for information to spread from person to person, as there are rampant internet outages specifically to prevent the passing of info on the protests.
As far as we know right now, nothing is set in stone regarding the future of Belarus. The protesters could gain massive amounts of support from across the country, or they could be put down by the government forces and the military itself. Only time may tell.